Having wrongly done away with the play-offs; the IRFU got lucky over the weekend in that the two best clubs in the country produced a potential title decider in the second last series of games.
This game was a wonderful advertisement for semi-professional rugby. It was a game that was hugely entertaining, massively physical and ultra competitive, with the result in doubt right up to the final whistle – a game that ticked all the right boxes – for the neutral observer at least. This was also a game played with great skill on both sides – despite the unpredictable wind and rock hard pitch.
The key period of the game came 10 minutes either side of half-time – those famed “championship minutes”; with two tries from Darren Hudson and three tries in total coming in that period from the eventual winners and having defended manfully for the entire 80; few would begrudge Mary’s their hard fought win. Conor Hogan also nipped in for a try for the winners in that period in reply to a fantastic solo effort from Clontarf’s Killian Left. Prop Treston also barged over for a late try for the losers.
A win for St. Mary’s at home to Young Munster will now clinch their second AIL title and their first since 2000. Peter Smyth, hooker on that title winning outfit, has moulded a team comprising mainly home-grown, local players who provide huge spirit and togetherness as witnessed by a number of come-from-behind wins throughout the season.
Clontarf coach Andy Wood admitted afterwards that the beter team had won:
“In fairness to Mary’s they defended very, very well,” said Wood. “I was delighted with the support and the occasion, but not the result.”
CLONTARF : R Lane; M McGrath, K Lett, E Ryan, T McCoy; N Reid, S Cronin; K Dorian, A Dundon, N Treston, B Reilly, J Chipman, S Crawford, B O’Mahony (capt), F Cogan. Replacements: D O’Meara for Cronin (33-40 and 83 mins), A D’Arcy for Chipman (45), D O’Shea for Lett (79 mins), Chipman for O’Mahony (66 mins). Not used:J Larby, T Furlong.
ST MARY’S: G Dunne; D Hudson, S Grissing, M O’Driscoll, C Hogan; P Brophy, M D’Arcy, C McMahon, Richard Sweeney, Robert Sweeney, D Hall, S Bradshaw, B OFlanagan, G Austin, H Hogan (capt). Replacements: C Lilly for D’Arcy (24-34 mins) and for Hudson (73 mins), C Ruddock for O’Flanagan (30), M Sexton for O’Driscoll (71). Not used: D Kilbride, R Brosnan.